Only last month Lens defender Raphael Varane was profiled as one of our Ligue 1 20 for 20 – players to watch. In the piece it was mentioned how many clubs were keeping an eye on this talented youngster ready to make a move for him in the transfer market. Manchester United and Bayern Munich were the big names in contention, Sir Alex had been rumoured to be considering a £3m bid for the 17-year old.

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This can’t be the best of times to follow Les Sang et Or your team sits precariously in the relegation zone while you look up at your biggest rivals on the brink of their first title since 1954. With the dark clouds circling overhead the Stade Felix Bollaert fans in the Marek stand are beginning to look towards the ray of sunshine coming from the centre of their defence.
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Another post work evening in Leeds train station, as usual it is full of business folk rushing round trying to get home as fast as possible. As I sit on the train bound for Doncaster most of my fellow travellers are engrossed in their laptops, to contrast I’m sat munching into some Barbeque crisps and two cans of Marks & Spencers finest cider. Oh yes ladies and gentleman this must be a Yorkshire Football (Mid) Weekend.
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The second Yorkshire Football Weekend did not start well. Once arriving in South Emsall with around an hour to go before kick-off we discovered the local pub at the station “The Plough” was temporarily closed. Gasping for a pint we decided to head towards the ground.

After a delightful ten minute stroll in the sun Norman and I arrived at the Tech 5 stadium, home of Frickley Athletic. Establish back in 1910 as part of the Frickley Colliery, the mines may be gone but there was still a very nice quaint feel about the club as we entered the ground.

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A very tough season lays ahead for all 24 Championship teams, looking through the lineups I am struggling to pick upright favourtites, plenty of Play-off contenders, most teams stuck in limbo and a few tipped for the bottom, let’s meet the contenders

PROMOTION CANDIDATES

Leicester City

The only team that I think has the greatest chance of promotion this year, although they have lost Manager Nigel Pearson they have kept star striker Matty Fryatt a goal machine in the past 2 seasons, to gain promotion from this league you need a goal scorer, and Fryatt guarentee’s 15-20 goals a season, add to that the like of Richie Wellens, lloyd Dyer, Robbie Neilson and Dany N’Guessan and you have the makings of a strong team. Manager Paulo Sousa did a good job at Swansea, it is a tough ask to follow in Nigel Pearson’s footsteps however Paulo has the ability to not only follow him, but take Leicester one step further.

Other candidates – Middlesbrough, Swansea, Ipswich

PLAYOFF CONTENDERS

Bristol City

Another new manager at a potentially massive club boosted by the signing of England International David James in goals, also keeping the likes of Nicky Maynard, Damion Stewart and Gavin Williams they have a strong squad with lots of potential. I expect them to have a very strong season and with time still left to add that little bit more quality, they will be a team to beat.

Cardiff City

Dave Jones announced today that the transfer embargo had been lifted, this should be the catalysty Cardiff need to bring in some good players, added to an already talented squad the potential to have a good season is there, Jason Koumas has already signed more should follow. Joe Ledley has gone to Celtic, Chopra is constantly linked with a move away, they still have Peter Whittingham, Ross McCormack and Jay Bothroyd to fire them into play-off contention. It will take all of Dave Jones managerial nouse to pick the team up from last years play-off defeat to get them a good start to the season, if he does Cardiff’s new groud could be a hard place to visit.

Coventry City

My last team picked for the play-offs is a little bit of a long shot, however all the ingredients are there, talented manager who’s done it before, exciting players and a good home crowd, Gary McSheffrey returns to where he once cause so many problems, young Irish players Stephen O’Halloran and Roy O’Donovan, the experience of Lee Carsley and a really exciting player in Lukas Jutkiewicz who showed his class on loan at Motherwell last year a remarkable goal in the memorable match against Hibs. Aidy Boothroyd will need to gel the players quickly, helped by the likes of Freddy Eastwood, Michael Doyle and Martin Craine good times could return to Coventry and the Ricoh Arena.

Other Candidates – Sheffield United, Leeds United

RELEGATION CANDIDATES

Scunthorpe United

It must be hard being a Scunthorpe fan constantly punching above your weight, plucking strikers either from the scrap heap or obscurity, watch them score tons of goals, to then watch them be sold again to the highest bidder, Billy Sharp saved his career at Glanford Park only then to move onto Doncaster, and this year it was Gary Hooper’s turn 50 goals for The Irons and then the big move to Celtic, so again Scunny fans have to look for their next savoir, Chris Dagnall has been brought in from Rochdale on a free and given the number 9 jersey, hopes will be pinned on him, too many players have left, I think it will be a long old season, and it could have a horrible ending.

Portsmouth

It’s easy to pick on Portsmouth, the club is in a real mess, minutes away from non-existence 14 players in the squad, 2 of them due to leave at some point, there needs to be heavy rebuilding in the squad to give them any chance, the players they have can only be described as journeymen, Tommy Smith, Michael Brown, Danny Webber all players that will not strike fear into any team, Kevin-Prince Boateng and John Utaka will surely leave, maybe even Aaron Moekena would leave, a grim job for Steve Cotterill lies ahead.

Other Candidates – Millwall, Derby County

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This weekend sees the climax of League One and League Two in England, the Bundesliga, Portugal’s SuperLiga, Scotland’s SPL and of course the English Premier League.

LEAGUE ONE

 


I’ll start with Saturday’s events, 5 teams in England are all fighting for promotion to the Championship; Leeds, Millwall, Swindon, Charlton and Hudderfield can all still mathematically make the leap to 2nd place.
Leeds have it all in their hands 9th place Bristol Rovers travel to Elland Road for what is expected to be a capacity Elland Road all eager to see their team make the jump finally out of League One, however this is a team made up of mostly lower league players, and how many have played in front of 45,000 people all baying for blood, the ocassion could be too much, or someone could become a hero.

Millwall v Swindon is a winner (maybe) takes it all situation, a win for either side along with a Leeds draw will give the victor passage to the Championship, Millwall’s 16 wins at home would make them favourites for this match, but Swindon can’t be ruled out.

Charlton travel to Oldham knowing that a victory along with a Leeds defeat and of course a draw between Swindon and Millwall would see them promoted, it is a lot to ask for but crazier things have happened in football, an even crazier situation would be a Leeds and Charlton defeat a draw at The New Den and Huddersfield go to Exeter and win, which against all odds would see them come from nowhere to get promoted, and what a story that would be.

2 Leeds United 45 32 83

3 Millwall 45 31 82
4 Swindon 45 17 82
5 Charlton 45 21 81
6 Huddersfield 45 27 80

Also in League One Tranmere visit relegated Stockport knowing a win could be enough to keep them in the division, Exeter, Hartlepool and Gillingham hover above the dangerzone looking down, Exeter have that difficult game against Huddersfield, Hartlepool travel to Brentford who have nothing to play for, knowing a win for the ‘pool would keep them up, Gillingham travel to relegated Wycombe and a point should be enough to ensure their safety.

18 Gillingham 45 -13 50
19 Hartlepool 45 -8 49
20 Exeter 45 -13 48

21 Tranmere 45 -30 48

So a very exciting day for League One fans with 9 teams all waiting on their fate.

LEAGUE TWO

 
Loads of teams with things to play for, gonna try to break it down.

6 Morecambe 45 8 70
7 Dag & Red 45 9 69

8 Bury 45 -5 68
9 Port Vale 45 11 67
10 Chesterfield 45 -2 67
11 Northampton 45 9 66

6 teams playing for 2 playoff spots:
Morecambe v Aldershot
Darlington v Dag & Red
Northampton v Bury
Port Vale v Shrewsbury
Chesterfield v Bournemouth

Wins for Morecambe or Dag & Red would secure their playoff status even a point for Morecambe should be enough, however a slip up could give 1 or even 2 of the other 4 a chance to steal a playoff berth at the death, Northampton v Bury is another win takes all situation, Port Vale have a great chance to win at Shrewsbury, Chesterfield have a tough home game against Bournemouth, it’s all to play for though and a single goal could make all the difference.

At the bottom it is all to play for, 3 teams fighting for survival and it is still all to play for, Cheltenham, Barnet and Grimsby know that Non-League football could be their destination depending on how the results play out.

21 Cheltenham 45 -17 47
22 Barnet 45 -17 45
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23 Grimsby 45 -23 44

If Cheltenham draw at home to Accrington Stanley then they are safe,  however if 13th place Accrington can win, it means Cheltenham could be in danger, Barnet are at home to Rochdale: although already promoted, Rochdale could still come 2nd and places do mean more money, Grimsby travel to 14th Burton Albion knowing anything but a win and they are relegated, but a win would put pressure on the other two teams, could be a nail biting finish.

SPL

 
The bottom half of the SPL is in action today and all eyes will be on Rugby Park what a finish we have, Falkirk travel to Kilmarnock in what is a relegation dog-fight, Falkirk sit bottom of the table on 30 points but know if they can beat Kilmarnock they would leap frog above Jim Jeffries side and survive for another season in the SPL.
Relegation would be a disaster for Kilmarnock, reports of losses up to £1.5 million if they go down could cripple a team like Killie, which would be sad for Scottish football, Killie have it in their own hands though, avoid defeat and they could save their club.

Aberdeen travel to St-Mirren and St Johnstone host Hamilton but they have nothing to play for and the Aberdeen players will be happy to end what has been a poor season for them, St Johnstone and Hamilton will celebrate what has been a successful season for both clubs and another year in the SPL beckons.

BUNDESLIGA

 
The Final day of Germany’s Bundesliga kicks off at 14:30 today and it would take a miracle for Bayern Munich not to win the Championship, Schalke travel to Mainz knowing they have to do their job and pick up 3 points, but already Relegated Hertha BSC host Bayern Munich and for Schalke to lift the Title, Hertha need to collect all 3 points, Bayern will be hoping to complete part one of a possible Treble with the DFB Pokal Cup and Champions League final still to come.

Bayer Leverkusen or Borussia Dortmund could cap off wonderful seasons if they can pip Werder Bremen for the last Champions League place, both have already guarenteed Europa League football next season, the Champions League is where all teams want to be though.
Leverkusen travel to Monchengladbach who are save from relegation and nothing to really play for, Dortmund travel to Freiburg who are also safe, Werder Bremen host Hamburg who are trying to steal the Europa League place from Stuttgart so the pressure will be on the team from Bremen, Dortmund need Bremen to lose, however for Leverkusen a draw could be enough.
Stuttgart need a point against Hoffenheim that would secure that Europa League place, visiting Hoffenheim that will not be the easiest place to pick up that point.

At the bottom things are just at tight, Hannover, Bochum and Nuremberg can all still go down, Hannover are on 30 points and 2 points ahead of Bochum and Nuremberg, 1 will stay up, 1 will go down and 1 will have to play in the relegation playoffs, Nuremberg host FC Koln, and then in Bochum the biggest game of the day as they host Hannover, I am amazed how many times the fixture list brings up great fixtures like this.

Should be an exciting day in Germany.

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